Recently I had the delicious pleasure of taking a wine and cheese pairing class at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center in New York City with cheese master Max McCalman. He taught us the basics of pairings, including how to taste wine and cheese as well as how to organize the ultimate wine and cheese party. Here are McCalum’s tongue-tantalizing tips.
1. Taste, taste, taste. If you are a novice at pairing wine and cheese, the best way to get more seasoned is to purchase a variety of cheeses (about five or six) and a variety of wines (about four) and get to tasting.
2. The best pairings are truly a matter of taste. Pairing cheese and wine is highly a matter of personal choice but there are some pairings that are generally good matches. Go with what tastes good to you.
3. Pair like with like. As a rule, you want to pair bigger wines with bigger cheeses and lighter wines with milder cheeses. This means partnering a bold full-bodied red with a strong tasting (smelly) cheese, and pairing a light refreshing white with a delicate cheese.
4. Pair according to texture. Red wine is usually best with hard cheese and white wine with soft cheese – but these are only guidelines, you should pair the wines and cheeses that delight your palate.
How to throw a wine and cheese party
Serve a variety of cheeses
When purchasing cheese for your party, purchase a variety – include soft, hard, strong, mild, young, and aged cheeses.
Generally, you should have at least three varieties. Try a selection of goat, sheep, or cow milk or soft, blue, or hard cheeses.
Offer a variety of wines
Buy three to four different types of wine – include bold, light, red, wine, vintage, and noveau. Keep in mind that wines can get pricey, so choose well.
Serve cheese at room temperature
For the best flavor, keep your cheese well-covered in the refrigerator or a cool place.
Take the cheese out of the refrigerator at least an hour before serving to bring to room temperature. If you serve cheese too cold, just like wine, it’s flavor will be muted.
Serve wine at the right temperature
White wine should be served just chilled and red wine should be served just below room temperature.
When serving, arrange cheese in order from mild to strong, young to aged, and soft to hard. You also want to alternate types when tasting, but always end with the blue cheeses because they are the strongest. Be sure to serve crackers and plenty of water to let your guests cleanse their palates in between cheese and wine tastings.
Delicious cheese and wine pairings
Blue: Port, Sherry, Madeira
Brie: Cabernet, Beaujolais
Camembert: Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc
Sharp Cheddar: Shiraz
Mild Cheddar: Chardonnay
Goat Cheese: Loire Valley Wines, Sauvignon Blanc
Gorgonzola: Bordeaux, Port
Gruyere: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Specific wine and cheese pairings
All cheeses are available at Artisanal Cheese.
Coupole (goat): Melon de Bourgogne, Vespaiolo, Dolcetto
Mont Saint-Francis (goat): Vespaiolo, Nero d’Avola
Classico (goat): Vespaiolo, Dolcetto, Nero d’Avola
Nisa (sheep): Melon de Bourgogne, Dolcetto, Nero d’Avola
Pecorino Maschio (sheep): Melon de Bourgogne, Vespaiola, Dolcetto, Nero d’Avola
Comté (cow): Melon de Bourgogne, Nero d’Avola
Appenzeller (cow): Melon de Bourgogne, Dolcetto, Nero d’Avola
Fourme d’Ambert (cow): Melon de Bourgogne, Vespaiola, Dolcetto, Nero d’Avola